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Larry Meehan, 60, booster of Boston’s tourist draws

Larry Meehan of Needham.

Larry Meehan of Needham.

A point man for tourism in Boston, Larry Meehan could rattle off arcane facts about the city and its history with the confidence of a college professor and the enthusiasm of a Duck Tour driver.

He knew, however, that tourists usually want more than just a stroll along the Freedom Trail and a beer at Cheers, so he encouraged regional collaboration. A tourist en route to another destination in the region, he reasoned, would drop a few bucks in Boston along the way.

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Such were his thoughts nearly a decade ago when ­Marlborough looked into marketing its suburban locale as a weekend crossroads. Mr. ­Meehan applauded the effort.

“In many ways, it adds to Boston’s tourism,” he told the Globe in 2003. “When Marlborough brings in other groups that may not come, by offering more affordable prices, we’re still getting people to come to Faneuil Hall and Lansdowne Street.”

Mr. Meehan, who was vice president of media relations and tourism sales at the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he worked for three decades, died of pancreatic cancer Saturday in his Needham home. He was 60.

“As he taught all of us, no one comes to just one city,” said Pat Moscaritolo, president of the bureau. “It’s the old saying that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

Mr. Meehan, he said, “had this helicopter view. He was great on the details, but he ­approached projects and initiatives from a very strategic point of view.”

That larger appreciation was apparent in a variety of ways. While tourism operators prepared earlier this year for travelers who would arrive on a new nonstop flight from Tokyo to Boston, Mr. Meehan was ­already looking at who would be on those planes.

Through his travel industry contacts, Mr. Meehan “quickly discovered that 20 to 25 percent of those who flew in from Tokyo were originally from Vietnam or China,” Moscaritolo said, which meant Boston had to set up marketing for tourists from those countries.

Once visitors arrived at ­Logan Airport, Mr. Meehan had plans for where they might travel. “He turned what was a traditional two-day stay by an international visitor to Boston into a 10-day stay,” Moscaritolo said. “He packaged Boston with the Cape, Boston with north of Boston, Boston with Maine. People suddenly had an itinerary, a 10-day plan to see all of New England, and we all benefited from that.”

Mr. Meehan also always had advice for those leaving the ­region to travel elsewhere.

“He was just a wealth of infor­mation,” said his longtime friend and neighbor David Blaustein. “Most people have to look on the computer or on their smartphones for information. He had it on the tip of his tongue. Once I was taking a trip to New York and said, ‘I’m staying in this hotel,’ and he said, ‘Well, right across the street —’ ”

The third of five children, Mr. Meehan was born and grew up in Newton. He studied ­urban affairs at Boston University, took classes at Boston Archi­tectural College, and “was interested in getting into city planning,” said his wife, ­Melissa. Instead, he took a job at Harvard University, where he worked on information planning projects. He left to launch his own maps and graphics firm, for which Harvard was a principal client.

“When I proposed several map and festival promotions to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, they ­offered me a full-time job; it was a perfect match,” Mr. ­Meehan recalled in an interview with Michael P. Quinlin for the Boston Irish Tourism Asso­ciation that is posted online.

He was living on Beacon Hill when he met Melissa Willette, who also lived in the neighborhood. She and a friend were having a drink after work, spotted Mr. Meehan, and asked him to join them. “She picked me up at one of those wonderful, friendly neighborhood bars, The Sevens on Charles Street,” he told the Globe in 1998.

Mr. Meehan knew welcoming bars were part of Boston’s charms and credited the television show “Cheers” with providing a warmer view of the city. “ ‘Cheers’ is Boston’s greatest export.” he told the Globe in 1992.

“He loved Boston,” said ­Melissa, who married Mr. Meehan in 1988. They had two sons, 17-year-old David and 13-year-old Will.

Away from work, Mr. Meehan was an ardent cyclist and would “just get on his bike and ride without necessarily a destination,” his wife said.

Planning rides of 20 or 30 miles, Mr. Meehan might bring his bicycle on a commuter train into Boston and then take a boat to Salem or Provincetown before heading out on a route.

Wherever he went, he brought along a journal, in which “he was always writing about promotions or marketing ideas,” his wife said.

Blaustein, Mr. Meehan’s neighbor, said that “a great day for him would be to go to some wooded area and write. He was a prolific writer and a unique individual, and you had the best conversations with him. When you talked with Larry, you always learned something.”

In addition to his wife and two sons, Mr. Meehan leaves three sisters, Patricia Parnell of Marlborough, Sheila Lane of Holliston, and Moira Cranshaw of Arizona; and a brother, ­Michael of Sunderland.

Family and friends will gather to celebrate his life at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Congregational Church of Needham.

“It’s a huge loss to us; it’s a huge loss to the tourism industry, but it’s a huge loss to New England as well,” Moscaritolo said.

Mr. Meehan took time to make travel personal, such as when he tracked down his ­ancestral homeland in Ireland.

“As a result of my journey to Aghabullogue Townland, west of Cork, I am able to tell my sons about their 18-year-old great-great-grandfather who traveled to America 144 years ago via the port of Moville,” he told the Boston Irish Tourism Association. “I believe that there is no more important learning experience than travel.”

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bmarquard@
globe.com
.

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